10 Surprising Things About This Year's Grammy Nominations

This year music has been dominated by viral pop like "Call Me Maybe" and "Gangnam Style," songs that initially became "hits" from outside the music business' traditional delivery system, usually YouTube. Thursday, the Grammys recognized that by nominating "Maybe," by 17-year-old Justin Bieber protege Carly Rae Jepsen, for Song of the Year.

Jepsen's nomination is a pretty brightly blinking sign that the industry is scrambling to keep up with popular tastes, and the pace it finds itself changing, at an even faster clip than usual. There's no way to know if the Grammys will add a category for "Best Viral Video" for 2013, but they might. If they are as concerned with remaining "relevant" as writers and industry folk always talk about, they probably should.

In the meantime, it feels like the Grammys found themselves short of established capital-S stars this year, and took up the slack by plugging in younger artists they knew would be super-appreciative of the honor -- choirboy-ish folk-rockers fun., ultra-sincere acoustic crossovers Mumford & Sons and Lumineers, oddly traditional R&B crooner Frank Ocean, classic-rockers 2.0 the Black Keys, and the most holy Jack White. Lotsa dudes, lotsa dudes.

All are acts who take themselves seriously with a capital S, leaving Alabama Shakes and Kelly Clarkson -- a rare shot of estrogen among the Big Four categories, with one female-fronted rockin' soul band and Fort Worth's own down-to-earth diva -- as the only major 2013 nominees who give the overall appearance that they understand that music is supposed to be fun with a capital F. Honestly, Jepsen probably does too.

We hope the Grammys remember that when the awards broadcast, scheduled for Feb. 10 on CBS, is beaten in the ratings by the Teen Choice Awards because they failed to nominate One Direction. But anyhow, every year we think nothing about the Grammy nominations will surprise us, and every year we are wrong. Reading through the list of this year's nominees, all the way down to the world-music, spoken-word and comedy categories, it only took Rocks Off about an hour Thursday morning to find ten.

  • Counting featured artists, producers and engineers and mixers, 17 people had a hand in Frank Ocean's Album of the Year nominee Channel Orange. Compare that with three for fellow nominee Jack White's Blunderbuss.
  • In Record of the Year, it took more people to write Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" (four) than "Call Me Maybe" (three).
  • Two of the three Traditional Pop Vocal Album nominees are holiday albums, Michael Buble's Christmas and Carole King's A Holiday Carole. The other is Sir Paul McCartney's Kisses on the Bottom.
  • With fun.'s nominations, Florida-based Warner/Atlantic subsidiary Fueled By Ramen, whose first release was Jimmy Eat World's self-titled 1998 EP, becomes the first emo label to be up for all four major Grammy awards.
  • According to a release Thursday morning by the American Association of Independent Music, independent labels accounted for more than half of this year's nearly 400 non-producer nominations. True, no doubt the majors have little interest in categories like Best Children's Album or Best Regional Roots Music Album -- shared by zydeco and traditional Hawaiian this year -- but it is a somewhat encouraging sign of how much their grasp on the industry has loosened in just a few short years.
  • The most-decorated Texan in this year's nominations is HSPVA alum Robert Glasper, who is up for Best R&B Performance for Ledisi duet "Gonna Be Alright ("F.T.B.")" and Best R&B Album for Black Radio. Miranda Lambert and Eli Young Band received one nomination apiece, for Best Country Album (Four the Record) and Best Country Duo/Group Performance ("Even If It Breaks Your Heart").
  • "Weak" girl group SWV is still around, with "If Only You Knew" nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance alongside Beyonce's "Love On Top."
  • Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball was not nominated for Album of the Year, but did score nods for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song ("We Take Care of Our Own").
  • Somehow, neither Asleep at the Wheel, George Strait nor Foo Fighters were nominated this year. U2's name was called only once, with a Long Form Music Video nomination for Achtung Baby making-of doc From the Sky Down.
  • The Grammys made sure that Adele can be part of this year's awards by nominating a live recording of "Set Fire to the Rain" for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. This is not at all surprising.

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